juvenile coopers hawk in the grass The Saga
Rufous Hawk

Chapter 25

Hawk Rockets

July 24, 2014

The life of a juvenile hawk comes down to one persistent question: "Where is the next meal coming from?" To be sure, they are developing their hunting skills, but bird-catching is not easy! To broaden their chances, they keep tabs on their siblings; if one of the others finds a meal, maybe there's enough for all. Or maybe s/he will drop it. Or maybe #1 can steal it from #2! Then there's always good old Mom and Dad. Every now and then, one of them will bring a meal. Who will get it? Maybe the most aggressive one; or maybe the one who is in just the right place at the right time.

With all those variables in play, the scene shapes up something like this: All will be still and quiet for awhile. Then someone makes a move, and suddenly the trees explode with little hawks shooting out like rockets, pursuing the lucky one. When it becomes obvious that s/he has things under control and settles down to eat the meal, the other hawks sit and watch restlessly, occasionally begging. Hawk Rocket

Here is what happened tonight, when one of the young hawks caught his own small bird. He flew to a low limb of nest tree, where I was able to take photos as the feathers flew. No doubt the young hawk was thinking, "I can handle it, but it sure was easier when Dad or Mom plucked, beheaded, and unzipped our meals!"

Juvie with Meal Juvie with Meal Juvie with Meal
Juvie with Meal Juvie with Meal Juvie with Meal

I later retrieved one of the feathers, black and only about 3-1/2 inches long. The prey was probably a young grackle or blackbird.

Prey Feather
Nuthatch Perch

Another of the young hawks, one of the males, perched nearby and watched. He grasped the tree bark much like a nuthatch would, with his long third toes balancing him as he faced down on the tree trunk.

Continue to Chapter 26: Graduation Time